Robert Wilson, a 2016 People's Liberty
project grantee, is also the owner of Sabercomm Productions
, a company that handles video and media projects for local public access television, businesses and nonprofit organizations. He saw few outlets for teen voices and decided to put his production expertise into creating youth media to affect social change.
As part of his People's Liberty project, Wilson developed a two-week summer camp called Your Productions
to provide at-risk youth with the tools to share their voice through video production and audio public service announcements.
During the summer of 2016, a group of 11 teens from Avondale, ages 12-18, worked together to shoot, produce and edit four short public service announcements about topics that they felt were relevant to their communities.
"It was important to allow young people to talk about what affects them," Wilson said.
Ultimately, the teens selected four issues to focus on: immigration, health, litter and Black Lives Matter and the experiences of young African American women.
"They had a deep grasp of what they were facing in their community," Wilson said. "I was blown away by the amount of maturity that they held. So often we think that young people don't have that grasp, we don't even ask their opinions."
Wilson and fellow videographer and activist Lamonte Young facilitated the camp and provided technical instruction, but Wilson said that it was always intended to be a student-led effort.
"They vetted these things and worked through problems on their own," he explained. Wilson said that unlike other video camps, Your Productions did not provide a prompt or limitations on the topics they could explore. "A lot of people don't want to get into the hard subjects, so they give them something to do. It's not the freedom to create on their own."
Wilson has plans to offer another two-week camp in the coming year.
"We’re going to continue this program whether there is funding for it or not," he said. Ultimately, Wilson wants to use the success of Your Productions to develop it into a model for others who want to run similar programs. "We want to help other people empower young people. Our goal is to create a template with a syllabus so that other people can come to us from other cities, and we can hand it off."
The PSAs from the Your Productions 2016 camp will be screened on local public access channels and can be viewed on Facebook
and on the Your Productions website
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.